[b-hebrew] VERBS

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Tue Jul 26 12:44:12 EDT 2005

I'm only going to address part of this:

On Tuesday 26 July 2005 09:29, Rolf Furuli wrote:
> I will use two English examples:
> 1) The verb "to sing" has the characteristics durativity (the action occurs
> over time) and dynamicity (the action changes). Regardless of the context
> of this verb, the characteristics durativity and dynamicity cannot be
> cancelled.  "To sing" will always indicate that words and melody come out
> of someone`s mouth, and this is durativity and dynamicity.

Hardly.  It's common English (American, at least) parlance to say "You really 
make that hammer sing" to someone who is adept at driving a nail, usually 
with a single blow.  The meaning is that the person has exceptional skill in 
the field, and has nothing to do with durativity or dynamicity.

> 2) The verb form "went" is grammaticalized past tense, and the semantic
> meaning (relationship) here is that reference time must occur before the
> deictic center (i.e. the action must occur before the present moment ).

In the old "Cisco Kid" TV series, Cisco's sidekick would frequently say "Let's 
went."  People liked the expression so much that it actually became a common 
feature of American language for several decades. Although it is fading now, 
one still hears it here and there and it's not considered erroneous.

The idea that words have some kind of "uncancellable" semantic feature(s) 
presupposes that words have some kind of inherent "meaning", whatever one 
chooses to mean by that term.  But they don't.  Words mean what they mean 
because a society chooses to use them that way.  Thus, any feature of any 
word may be cancelled if the society in question comes to accept a different 
usage.  Unlike the famous Humpty Dumpty dictum, such cancellation can't be 
arbitrarily assigned by a single individual at a single point in time; this 
is why I say "a society," because the usage must come to be accepted by at 
least a significant portion of a particular culture.  Once upon a time, it 
was a foregone conclusion that "bad" carried negative connotations as part of 
its "uncancellable" meaning.  Now, because of the influence of a particular 
American sub-culture, more and more parts of society are coming to accept 
that "bad" may be either negative or positive: "You did a bad thing" vs. 
"Those are some bad shoes!"  The word "breakfast" used to mean the first meal 
of the day, generally taken in the morning after waking; thanks to a very 
successful advertising campaign in the 1970's it now refers to a certain 
group of foods that might be taken at any time of day for any meal.  Words do 
not have inherent meaning; they mean what we the society choose to make them 
mean, and those meanings only come about by common consent, not anything 
built into the words themselves.
Dave Washburn
"Well, if I'd wanted a safe life, I guess I wouldn't have 
married a man who studies rocks." - Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson)

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